Report (2nd Day)

Part of Criminal Justice and Courts Bill – in the House of Lords at 7:02 pm on 22nd October 2014.

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Photo of Lord Ramsbotham Lord Ramsbotham Crossbench 7:02 pm, 22nd October 2014

My Lords, I will be brief because much of what I am going to say has already been said, particularly in relation to the criteria. I would like to raise two points. First, I am concerned about the criteria, about which we know nothing, relating to the selection of application for contractors. I remind the House that there used to be in the Ministry of Defence every year an exercise called “basket weaving”. The Secretary of State laid down precisely what was to be done, and then the Treasury produced the money. Then the staffs had to look at the money that had been provided and see whether it allowed the Secretary of State’s direction to be delivered. Invariably, there was not enough money, so people listed in different baskets what was essential to have to carry out the task, what would be desirable to have and what would be nice to have. Those three baskets were then presented to Ministers, who were invited to decide what should not be done because the funding was not available, or to go and ask for more money. That was the decision that they had to take.

The reason I tabled this amendment is that we do not know what it is that the Secretary of State is requiring the contractors to provide, not least in the provision of the specialist staff, whom many noble Lords have mentioned today in connection with looking after this group of younger people. Therefore, my reason for putting down the amendment was to encourage the Government to release these criteria so that we know, and the taxpayer then knows, and can therefore judge, what is actually missing when the contractor puts in their bid. We will not have any say over the bid, but it would be very interesting to know what parts of the original intention could not be provided for these young people because of funding.

My second point relates to a practicality of the delivery of the sort of thing that I know the Minister intends in the secure college. In 1966, the Army’s secondary school in Hohne, in Germany, was achieving remarkable results with children who came or left throughout the term, to and from schools almost anywhere in the world because of the movement of their fathers. When I asked the headmaster the secret of his success, he said that he ran a comprehensive school: every pupil was assessed for their ability in different subjects, and their daily programme was dictated by their ability: top form in maths, bottom in English and so on. When I told him that if that was comprehensive education, I was all for it, he warned me not to hold my breath because streaming by talent was frowned on in England. It worked, because motivated, compliant children got themselves to and from their programmed classes—a total impossibility both in security and in practical terms with the cohort that is likely to be in custody in a secure college. Has anyone thought through the practicalities of limited staff numbers trying to conduct 320 difficult, disruptive and damaged children with fragile motivation and questionable compliance to and from 30 hours of unspecified education, plus a myriad of other health and social care requirements on this cramped site?

I include that, first of all, as an example of what might be done with all of these children with different needs and problems, as to how to get them to go to where it is most appropriate; but also because I am concerned that this House has not yet had the criteria on which the judgment should be based as to which bid is going to be able to meet them. I strongly support the amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Beecham, about limiting the contract to five, rather than 10, years because I believe that to tie future Governments for 10 years to this proposal—with all that has been said about it around the House today—is several years too long. I beg to move.